The ancestral home of shoemaking from the 13th century, Fiesso d’Artico is a town near Venice that sits on the banks of the River Brenta. It is this location that the venerable French fashion house, Louis Vuitton, has made the beating heart of its shoemaking workshop – though it is unlike any other in the world.
Arriving at the Fiesso workshop, the perfect balance between traditional savoir-faire, excellence in craftsmanship, and cutting-edge technology strikes, and it is apparent from the outside of the facility, where a sculpture by Jean-Jacques Ory is displayed in the porch, like a huge pump shoe, inside of which Botticelli’s Venus is revealed.
The facility, which was envisioned and designed by architect Jean-Marc Sandrolini, launched in 2009 after three years of research and one year of construction. It was a Louis Vuitton shoebox that inspired Sandrolini’s vision for the facility: The premises are designed such that, like a shoebox, the contents of the inside would remain hidden, except to the rare outside visitor who is allowed access. The hollow insides of the “box”, rather the center of the building, house a contemplative green garden where “Priscilla”, a giant 4.7 meter-long pump shoe made of kitchen pots and pans, rests on the lawn.
A 263 meter-square exhibition gallery, a real showcase for extraordinary know-how, dotted with themed displays, has also been installed at the heart of the Fiesso d’Artico workshops: divided into two, it comprises a museum and a library made up of books devoted to shoes. At every corner, there is something to remind the visitor of the philosophy of beautiful shoes, with respect to tradition and emotion and craftsmanship: Think footprints painted in ink by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, photos by Ralph Gibson and Frank Horvat, or a series of drawings by Andy Warhol.
Walking into the parallelepiped interiors, it is clear that Sandrolini and Louis Vuitton’s vision for its employees’ working conditions was humanist at its very core. The building makes optimal use of natural daylight, while the workshop’s artisans – whose craft requires them to stand for long stretches of time throughout the day – stand on a soft surface rather than a hard floor. They work with the serene murmur of the passing water outside, while poplar trees provide the area with shade.
Here, Louis Vuitton shoes – from the most elegant ladies’ shoes to training shoes, as well as loafers and a made-to-order service for men – are envisaged, designed, and created. The artisans mainly come from the surrounding area, and many have been in the business for generations, the guardians of a rare savoir-faire that is passed down from master to apprentice (in many cases, from father to son).
Inside its rarely visited interiors, it is apparent that the Fiesso workshop has become, not step by step but from its very inception, a facility that talks the talk and walks the walk of the Louis Vuitton brand.
Click through the gallery for an exclusive look inside the workshop.
Photos: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton